Smith concedes win to Walcher

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State Rep. Matt Smith, a 3rd Congressional District candidate, conceded to fellow Republican Greg Walcher on Thursday, but the Grand Junction lawmaker refused to say whether he would support Walcher's bid to replace retiring Rep. Scott McInnis.

Smith's concession came more than two weeks after the Aug. 10 GOP primary that featured a five-way race among Walcher, Smith, state Rep. Gregg Rippy, Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino and Steamboat Springs Navy veteran Matt Aljanich.

The Colorado Secretary of State's Office released unofficial election results Thursday that showed Walcher holding a 274-vote lead over Smith. The tally includes provisional ballots.

During the past two weeks, Smith had refused to concede, saying he wanted to ensure all provisional ballots were counted before accepting defeat.

"We're satisfied that county clerks and the Secretary of State's Office have thoroughly reviewed all ballots," Smith said by telephone Thursday.

His campaign released a concession statement earlier in the day that said Smith would spend the fall "campaigning on behalf of President Bush's re-election and helping colleagues in their races for the Colorado House and Senate."

Missing from the statement was an endorsement for Walcher. Smith consistently attacked Walcher throughout the campaign for his support of the failed Referendum A water initiative, which many Western Slope residents saw as a Front Range water grab.

Smith declined to say whether or when he would endorse Walcher, who's hoping to replace McInnis and help Republicans retain a seat they've held for 14 years. Walcher will face Democratic state Rep. John Salazar in November's general election.

"All I've issued is the statement on the concession," Smith said. "I'm not issuing any other statements."

Walcher's campaign downplayed the absence of an endorsement from Smith.

"I'm not necessarily concerned by it," said John Marshall, Walcher's campaign spokesman. It's understandable that Smith may want to take some time before making any endorsement, he said.

"We'd be thrilled and honored to have his support," Marshall said.

In other campaign news, Walcher, who is busy harvesting peaches on his Palisade orchard, was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention in New York City next week, Marshall said.

"There are only a handful of people across the country who get to speak at the convention, so it's a big deal," Marshall said. "We're still not sure of all the details."

Walcher's invitation underscores the national importance of the 3rd Congressional District race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are expected to play significant roles in the campaigns of Walcher and Salazar.

The two candidates are scheduled to debate for the first time Sept. 11 in Grand Junction. Marshall said the campaigns are trying to schedule additional debates leading up to the election.

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